Friday, April 29, 2005

Valentine's Day, a Little Late

It's been a rainy, gloomy week here in mid-America, with lots of pre-finals stress. But on Tuesday there were young women walking around on campus carrying long-stemmed roses. One young lady said there was a young man in the cafeteria who had bought an armload of roses, and he was giving them out to every girl he saw. The girl who talked to me didn't even know the fellow's name.

For a few minutes, the last-minute gotta-get-it-done stress eased, and there were smiles, wondering what kind of young man would take the time to bring joy into his anonymous classmates' days. I hope he realized that he gave a smile to everybody, not just the lucky young women he gifted with flowers.

Take time to do something unexpected, and good.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Kids Are Going to Be OK

We had Karaoke for the students last week during Spring Fling. Most of the performances were not remarkable, and Simon from American Idol would have been most unkind. Still, it takes some self-confidence to sing into a mike in front of one's peers, and I didn't hear anyone jeering even the most awful performances. One fellow, though, was notable.

Our campus has some developmentally delayed high school students who come in and help in the library from time to time. The college students mostly take no notice of them, since there is nothing unusual about seeing them. However, one of these young men who happened to have Down's Syndrome decided to take the microphone and sing that 'NSync hit, "Bye, Bye, Bye." He was too shy to stand up on the stage, and so sang sitting down, so that you had to look closely to see who was performing. As the introduction began, I heard rhythmic clapping that began and grew, until I looked around to see what was going on. The young man was singing, and the conversation in the cafeteria had almost stopped. Students were looking at him, and rooting for him to do well. Honestly, he was one of the best performances of the day, but the encouragement in the room was almost palpable. When he finished, there was applause, which was missing for most of the "normal" college students' numbers.

I was very proud that the students took the time to cheer for a young man who has more challenges to face than most people. His instructor told me that he was very shy, and that this karaoke performance was a really big step for him.

Sometimes young people do the right thing all by themselves.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

And this is the thanks I get

I went to school yesterday after rushing around here trying to get some things done before I got to work. As I was walking into the cafeteria, I looked down and noticed that I was wearing 1 each of 2 different kinds of tennis shoes. (Both white and blue, at least) This was a precursor of bad things to come.

It was Spring Fling, and all clubs are expected to have a table manned, with give-aways, or at least things to sell. My table, Campus Crusade for Christ, had some books, CDs, baseball cards, and general information to hand out to anyone who was interested. I had been there maybe 15 minutes when a man walked up, and looked at our Campus Crusade sign (8 1/2x 11, green, with the name of the club) and said, "Campus Crusade...isn't that an oxymoron?" Being an English professor, I know an oxymoron when I see it, and it sure wasn't the sign. This fellow proceeded, for the next hour or so, to accuse us, as Christians of everything from child abuse, threatening Terri Schiavo judges, abortion clinic bombings, the war in Iraq, cutting Medicaid, teaching creationism in schools, global warming, and the election of George Bush. (No wonder I'm so tired--in only 50 years, that's a lot to accomplish.) Mostly, I let the campus minister deal with him, while I continued to deal with various students and their problems, chat with the Gay/Lesbian club, and greet other professors.

This fellow, a music professor, went on to say that he would know a real Christian by what he saw them do. Finally, I had had all my little Irish heart could take. I lit into him, and told him that for the last hour I had listened to him accuse Christians, and me personally, of all sorts of crimes, and that wasn't reasonable, seeing as how he had never met me. I then went on to ask him how many students had come to him and even greeted him in the past hour (none), and where he was when I was counseling at least 2 students with various problems, and if he realized that there was one student graduating this semester who wouldn't have even attended college had I not enrolled him, got him grants and a job and provided transportation! I told him that he didn't know me, or that I had worked food pantries and homes for battered women, and even volunteered one day a week at the Humane Society. Having no rebuttal to that, he then accused me of voting for George Bush (obviously, the most evil thing one can do in his world). I retorted that who I voted for was none of his business, and I wasn't going to tell him. Again, I reiterated that he didn't know me, and that by using his own logic, I could accuse him of being guilty of encouraging rapes, school shootings, suicides, and the murder of policemen, since he was a musician and some rap songs have those themes. He began wagging his pointer finger at me and going on about the Evils of Republican Christians. I said, "Do NOT point at me" and gave him THE LOOK. He retreated somewhat, and then decided that, since I was a Christian, I must certainly be against evolution, in favor of going back to the scientific middle ages, and stated that no scientist believed that God created the world.

And there I had him. I said, "Well, my son holds a Ph.D. in nanotechnology from the UMinn, ran their electron microscopy lab, and now researches alloys to go into the defibrillator that will resuscitate you when your blood pressure climbs too high. And he not only believes in creation, he can probably name you a dozen other scientists who aren't evolutionists, either." I helpfully spelled my son's name and suggested that he "google" him so that he could see that my son is, indeed a multiply-published scientist.Then he accused me of not believing in global warming. This was the coldest day we had had in a couple of weeks, so I told him that wasn't really a good time to make that accusation, and then I decided that it was time to invoke the Holy Grail of Academia--I told him that I was personally offended by his comments, especially since he hadn't made my acquaintance until the hour before. He said that he wouldn't apologize, and believed that a college was where we should be able to discuss any matters. I told him that I agreed with him, but I was still offended by his accusations. (And since he doesn't know me, he also doesn't know that I have lunch with his own department head once a week.) I encouraged him to hurry off to his class, and secretly prayed that he would have to spend the next hour explaining why Bach wrote "to God's glory" on all his compositions.

So today, I sent him a lovely card (handmade, with my stamps) and thanked him for the discussion and said I hoped he hadn't taken offense, and that I was looking forward to working with him.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar...